Monaco House
This new 4 storey building is located in a largely pedestrian-lane, Ridgway Place at the East end of Melbourne’s CBD. Dominant in the lane is the historic Melbourne Club wall and the gigantic plane trees emanating from the garden. The site, with a footprint of 102.5sqm is a postage stamp. The building is financed by its Melbourne owner. Our brief was to provide a ground level café, followed by two levels of office tailored for the owners Investment and Philanthropic Organization. The top level contains a small reception primarily for official functions associated with the owner’s role as Honorary Consular of Monaco. This was this client’s first foray into what may be considered contemporary architecture. Despite this inexperience, our client had a love of the design of cars, boats (particularly early 20C) and finely crafted objects. He bemoaned the loss of shape in the contemporary world. It was in the area of shape, craft and material that the architect and client found our common ground. To meet cost constraints building elements had to be structured around crane sizes, and crane sizes around turning-circles. Much of the invisible external of the building is pragmatic and unremarkable. It is in the 2m frontage zone where for many months we explored abstraction and representation and discussed tirelessly the nuances of composition. We looked at the plane trees and some local deco gems. We pondered the gothic, the Monaco Principality, Surrealism, the heraldic, and the Prague cubists. We wanted a building awash with rich imagery. The process of the Aggregation of Melbourne’s allotments is now almost universally seen as a process which diminishes urban quality and diversity. There is now an earnest attempt, even in large block developments, to reintroduce the fine grain urbanism that has been lost to the city. Still so often both the scale and architectural expression is absent. The new pedestrian experience is one based around consumerism. Gone are the buildings that in their generous detail evoke delight and mystery. This is an ode fine grain urbanism. We wanted the building to be above all else something that amplified its miniature urban grain and enriched the pedestrian experience of the city. Within the office large apertures to the West are shaded by deep balconies and the adjoining plane trees. The workspace has good natural light and cross-ventilation. Exposed windows have electronically controlled external blinds. Outdoor balconies provide areas of release from the office desk. The


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